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|More than one in four homes in the UK
will be offered a complete eco-makeover under ambitious plans
expected to be announced this week to slash fuel bills and cut
global warming pollution.
The campaign is thought to involve giving 7m houses and flats a
complete refit to improve insulation, and will be compared to the
10-year programme that converted British homes to gas central
heating in the 1960s and 1970s. Householders could also be
encouraged to install small-scale renewable and low-carbon heating
systems such as solar panels and wood-burning boilers.
In total, it is thought the Department of Energy and Climate Change
will commit to cutting a third of greenhouse gas emissions from
households by 2020.
The announcement by the energy and climate secretary, Ed Miliband,
and the communities and local government secretary, Hazel Blears,
which is expected on Thursday, will be widely welcomed by
environmental groups and fuel poverty campaigners who have been
lobbying hard for more action to tackle emissions from homes. The
proposals are likely to require skills training and create thousands
Ed Matthew, head of UK climate for Friends of the Earth, said:
"Twenty-seven percent of emissions in this country come from
people's homes and if they don't cut emissions from homes radically
we have got no hope of achieving our climate change targets."
However, campaigners will be worried about how much money the
government is prepared to commit. Last year, the prime minister,
Gordon Brown, announced nearly £1bn from power companies for
energy-saving initiatives. By contrast, various reports have
estimated the cost of insulation and small-scale clean energy alone
to be £2bn-£12.9bn a year to reach the government's target of an 80%
cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Matthew said the targets would only be met if each home treated was
insulated well enough to cut those emissions by two-thirds, the
financial incentives were high enough, and people on low incomes had
the work paid for to tackle fuel poverty. It is estimated that more
than 5m households are in fuel poverty, meaning they spend more than
10% of their income on heat and power.
"My concern is they will not be investing enough money to take these
homes to a high enough energy efficiency standard to insulate them
from rising fuel prices," he added.
A report by Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute in
2007 found that carbon dioxide emissions had risen 5% since Labour
came into power in 1997, and only four out of every 1,000 homes had
any "low-and-zero carbon technologies". The report also warned that
with rising population and falling household numbers, emissions from
the sector would rise by 23% by the middle of the century "if
nothing else changed".
As well as the target of seven million homes, the heat and energy
saving strategy is understood to push for a dramatic increase in the
level of insulation for each house or flat, and to encourage more
small-scale zero-or-low carbon heat.
The schemes will be voluntary, but Miliband is expected to announce
Similar schemes overseas included grants or cheap loans,
transferable to a new homeowner if the property is sold. Also, the
Sustainable Energy Academy estimates that if homeowners spend
£15,000-20,000 they would save that amount in lower bills in 10-15
years, even less if fuel prices rise. Another possibly option is for
whole districts to be offered community clean energy schemes, or
mass fitting of efficiency improvements.
The Conservatives have proposed grants of up to £6,500 per
household, which would be repaid over up to 25 years from expected
savings of £160 on gas and electricity bills.